City could declare smoking a nuisance

Move would allow residents to sue over secondhand smoke from cigarettes

BELMONT — City officials continue to hunt for a way to declare smoking a nuisance, a move that would allow residents to sue one another over the creation of secondhand smoke.

Many locals have requested the move, particularly those living in apartment complexes with cigarette-smoking neighbors.

George Hubbard, who lives with his mother in an Irene Court apartment, keeps his windows closed around the clock because his downstairs neighbors chain-smoke on their balcony, he said in a letter to the City Council.

“We have brought up the situation to the [building’s] owner and manager, and they refuse to do anything,” according to Hubbard, who cannot move because he is currently unemployed. “We have exhausted all means of seeking help … so far, the law says we do not have a case.”

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors in April banned smoking in common areas of multi-unit housing — and within 30 feet of county-owned buildings — but the ban does not apply to tenants smoking in apartments or on private balconies.

In September, after another resident asked the City Council to declare smoking a public nuisance, City Attorney Marc Zefferano began researching Belmont’s options. Cities such as Dublin have already passed similar measures, according to a report Zefferano will deliver to the City Council Tuesday night.

Zefferano is expected to bring a proposed ordinance to the City Council at a future meeting.

“This doesn’t involve the city, but puts it through the courts,” Vice Mayor Coralin Feierbach said. “I’d like to get rid of smoking altogether, but the least we can do is give people some relief.”

Meanwhile, officials in neighboring San Carlos want to find ways to crack down on downtown smokers who litter the sidewalks with their cigarette butts, according to Mayor Matt Grocott.

“We’re not looking to ban smoking, but smoking is one of the major littering problems we have,” Grocott said. “But if you come down on people too hard, you chase them out of downtown.”

Local and state smoking crackdowns are ongoing. The San Mateo County Transit District banned smoking in its bus shelters in January. That same month, Burlingame adopted an ordinance urging smokers to light up further away from city parks and sports fields.

bwinegarner@examiner.comBay Area NewsLocal

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